There are many different ways to look at your recovery. There is the physical side of your recovery, which focuses on helping regain mobility, physical strength, and flexibility. And the more spiritual side of recovery, which focuses on building emotional strength and confidence. But what if there were something between those two, something that could help strengthen your body while exercising the very core of your being? And what if that approach could literally help you stand on your own two feet again?
Zen and the art of rehabilitation
Smooth, coordinated whole-body movements have long been thought to be a valuable exercise for patients in recovery from stroke. We’re talking specifically about traditionally Eastern practices such as Tai Chi, Qigong, and yoga. These techniques require a combination of balance and controlled movement with mental focus and relaxation achieved through controlled breathing. People often view these as something to complement more conventional methods. However, could it be time to bring them into the foreground of stroke rehabilitation?
East vs. West
A team of researchers looked at 18 studies recruiting a total of almost 1,200 patients in the acute phase of stroke and made a promising discovery. The data available suggested that these mind-body movement-based practices were safe, easy to learn, affordable (from a healthcare point of view), and widely accessible. They also promoted improvements not only in balance, but in ‘core’ strength, concentration, flexibility, and emotional wellbeing. At least that was the case for most of the studies. Four studies conducted in Western countries failed to link these practices to any improvement in post-stroke balance at all. But don’t despair — this outcome is more likely a result of study practices than cultural barriers. So with mounting evidence of the efficacy of these techniques, could it be time for you to speak with your physician about taking a more zen-like approach to your rehabilitation?
The lead authors of this study are Liye Zhou and Lin Wang, Department of Physical Education, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, China.